Senators back ethics panel probe vs Bong Go on PPE overpricing controversy

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go may face a Senate ethics committee investigation for his alleged links to former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) undersecretary Christopher Lao who is being tagged to the alleged overpricing of personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Senator Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee, said this was brought up during one of their meetings as some senators seek answers to Go’s role in the Executive department and as a member of the Senate.

“I asked my fellow senators what do you think about this, if push comes to shove, we may have to ask. Ayoko mag imbestiga ng kasama natin but if we have to. Kung aabot ito dun, we may have to investigate (Go) because it will go to the ethics committee at the very least,” Gordon said during a virtual press briefing.

Senators he said are also skeptical why Go would not defend the Senate’s mandate of investigating corruption in government and maintaining a system of check and balance in the bureaucracy, saying he could have defended the Upper Chamber’s probe into the Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling of its P63.7-billion COVID-19 response funds before Duterte.

“Ano ba talaga ang role ni (What is the role of Senator) Bong Go? Is he still working with the Senate or still working with the President,” Gordon quipped.

“Why did you not defend the Senate before the President? Di ba dapat sabihin mo, Mr. President, senador ako dyan, magagalit ang mga kasama ko. Di ninyo naman dapat atakihin ang Senado (Shouldn’t he have told the President, sir, I’m a senator, my colleauges would not like that. You shouldn’t be attacking the Senate),” he added.

“In that case, he made a disservice to the President. He should have said: ‘Sir, iniimbestiga yan, tawagin natin itong si Lao and make him appear in the probe,” Gordon pointed out.

But Lao, he noted, made a public statement denying the allegations against him through a state-run channel. “What does that tell you? Isn’t that compelling enough?” he pointed out.

According to Gordon, at least four of senators, including him support an ethics probe on Go.

“Sabi ni (Sen. Panfilo) Ping (Lacson), we’ll support you, pag inimbestigahan sa (if it gets to the) ethics committee,” he said.

Gordon also said he doesn’t buy Go’s pronouncement he does not personally know Lao nor the other persons linked to the multi-billion peso contract between the DBM’s procurement service (DBM-PS) and executives of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

The contract was awarded at a time Lao was the head of the DBM-PS. Go has denied that Lao was his former aide, saying that he was a volunteer election lawyer during Duterte’s presidential campaign in 2016.

“Lahat sila na-appoint dahil kay Bong Go. So Bong Go cannot say he doesn’t know them. Go knows them. This is not the first time, because alam natin lahat sila ay may commonality, na ang nag kampanya kay (they have something in common with) President Duterte. That’s fine,”

“Pero eto, inaappoint siya kugn saan may pera na marami. Nakakapagtaka. And you know, ang lalaki ng mga pinipirmahan nila (But he’s being assigned to posts that involves where there is huge money involved. That’s puzzling. And you know they are signing contracts that involve huge amounts of funds),” he pointed out.

According to Gordon, two other persons are also being investigated by the blue ribbon panel—fellow DBM executive Warren Liong, who was Duterte’s alleged former legal consultant. Liong reportedly was also in the DBM-PS the same time as Lao but eventually got the second highest post in the Office of the Ombudsman in November 2020.

Another is fellow Davao lawyer Anderson Lo who is shortlisted to become the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao, making him the officer who might be signing resolutions involving local officials, including the President’s children.

“Baka ma-appoint siya over-all Ombudsman ng Mindanao so covered ang track sa Mindanao (Lo may be appointed as overall ombudsman in Mindanao and cover the tracks in Mindanao),”

“That’s my theory, it’s an escape plan. Because Lao also tried to be executive director of the Ombudsman,” Gordon pointed out.

Gordon said it would not be the first time that an incumbent senator would be facing a Senate ethics probe, citing the cases involving former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Compared to the two past lawmakers, Gordon said their ethics cases filed against them were not considered big while the present case involves billions of funds.

“‘Yun lang maliit na ‘yon na ethics na siya. E lalo na ito malalaking pera, ang sabi ko pag umabot sa posisyon na ‘yan (Those were small cases and yet they faced an ethics probe. This one involves huge money, that’s why I said if it reaches that possibility), it may go to the ethics (committee),” the lawmaker stressed.